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Greek travel: Frequently Asked Questions
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  When should I go?
  Should I avoid Athens?
  How much does it cost?
  Can I use my credit cards?
  What documents do I need?
  How do I use the telephone?
  Do they speak English?
  Do I need shots?
  Can I drink the water?
  What are the hotels like?
  Can I get maps?
  Is it safe?
  Is it safe for women?
  Do they hate Americans?

When should I go? Go in May or early to mid-June. Avoid July and August. July and August are the "high" season, when not only rates, but temperatures and crowds hit their peak. Look at the period of May 15 to the end of June. Everything is open then, the ferries are running. The rates for hotels will be lower, you can get a room more easily with less need to reserve, and everything isn't as crowded. The weather is fine and the light is special. I think that many who report that Athens is a stinky, oppressive hellhole, were there in July or August. Too bad for them.

See my climate page for weather data.

Also consider the late September and early October period. However, some experience suggests that everyone in the country is a little fried at this point and things, while still wonderful, are just a little less friendly than in the May, June period.

Should I avoid Athens? It has a bad reputation, but, in part, I think, from people being there at the height of summer. I like its intensity and human scale, as I have written elsewhere. But, see the Acropolis, the Agora the National museum, eat dinner in the Plaka and then head out for the islands - that would probably be you normal plan. If people have told you horrible things about the dinky airport, they built a new one that opened in 2001.

How much does it cost? An obvious enough question to ask, yet, of course, basically unanswerable: like everywhere else, it can cost what you want it to. However, a few things can be said. Greece is a relatively inexpensive country. Once you get there, you can live well on less than most other European countries. Don't be fooled by the usual upscale stuff you find in superficial tourist magazines. You can get a decent double in Athens for $50-75, less in the islands. You can eat a good evening meal for $8-16. The level of luxury will be a bit lower than you expect, but it will be adequate.

You can eat for cheap or go upscale as you like.

Can I use my credit cards? Do they take real money? Relax, they're on the Euro. See my page on money in Greece.

What documents do I need to get in? Your U. S. passport. No visa is required for U. S. citizens or people from countries of the common market.

How do I use the telephone? Purchase a phone card at a local kiosk and slide it into the slot in the pay phone. For calling to Greece, here is a summary provided by a friend:

so from abroad

+30 210 + 7 digits for athens
+30 2310 + 6 digits for thessaloniki

mobile phones become ten digits (they changed on Jan 2003)
ALL starting with 69+8 more digits

so from abroad: +30 69 + 8 digits

Do they speak English? Well, it is their country, why shouldn't they speak Greek? But, in fact, in most tourist places, English is spoken and you will find signs in English as well. Most cafes and restaurants have menus in at least two languages and sometimes three, so pointing will work.

If you get to the rural areas, this becomes less true and English will become rarer. But it is almost always the case that people who regularly deal with tourists will have some English.

Learn a few words of Greek. The locals will appreciate it.

What shots do I need? None, as far I can tell. Your doctor may recommend some precautions, but nothing is required by law. I've heard suggestions that if you need any prescription medication that you should carry a prescription form from your MD in case you need more of it in Greece. I have to add that I have no experience with this in practice.

Can I drink the water? Gosh, we're getting paranoid. Yes you can drink the water, not only in Athens, but around the country as well (with a few exceptions on selected islands). It may be of uninspired taste, but you can drink it. Bottled water is also available widely, even in rural areas, and since it is cheap and cold and tastes good, you may opt to drink a lot of it. But don't worry about showering or brushing your teeth with the stuff that comes out of the pipe.

What are the hotels like? Cheap, safe, clean. See my Hotel page.

Can I get maps? Sure, what would you like them to say? Maps purchased in Greece are "approximate" generally. You can find maps for a particular island when you get to the island or in larger bookstores in Athens.

Is it safe? Well, people do have accidents there just like in other countries. Greece is quite safe, and you're more likely to be robbed by a fellow tourist than a Greek. The usual big-city precautions apply: watch out for pickpockets at the airport and on the subway, and the taxi drivers will gouge you if they can, not that this would EVER happen in New York City.

Greece is a very safe country in terms of you being able to leave things in your hotel room, be safe from muggings, etc. There is a branch of the police just for tourist related issues. Never had to deal with them.

Is it safe for women? I'm a 6'1", non-thin, guy, not a 5'4" woman, so my information is necessarily secondhand - at least until older women sit on the dock and judge guy's butts. What I notice is that women traveling alone do make their way in the country. It is not a place where getting felt up on the bus is a normal occurrence, though you may be subject to men approaching you to quiz you on your circumstances, all, of course, intended to "protect" you and be in your "best interest." I've seen Greek men do this to Greek women, but do not have much feedback from women tourists. The various guide books and female friends do not suggest that anything other than normal caution is needed.

Do they hate Americans? Do tourists from any other country worry about this? Or need to? American foreign policy generally favors Turkey over Greece. There is a history of CIA manipulation of Greek politics. Kosovo looks rather more complicated from Greece than here. And there is the running sore of Turkish occupation of half of Cyprus with the connivance of the US. If you get in a political argument, you are likely to discover the intensity of feelings about all this. However, the chances of getting random anger is very low to nonexistent. I was there at the height of supposed anti-Americanism in the mid 80's and never experienced anything. On the other hand if you are loud, boorish and patronize the locals you may get attacked, but then, you will deserve it.

Last modified 1/22/15; posted 8/8/2000; original content © 2015, 2000 John P. Nordin